Pequot Lakes School District: No comments read in school board’s public input meeting
In a prepared statement, the Pequot Lakes School Board informed the public that the school district’s legal counsel is reviewing each comment and they will be released later
The Pequot Lakes School Board’s work session Monday, May 10, featured no public comments read aloud regarding diversity, the SEED Program or a controversial video narrated by Superintendent Chris Lindholm that prompted public outcry, even though more than 300 people provided their thoughts to the district.
In a prepared statement, the board informed the nearly 100 people in attendance in the school's athletic complex that the school district’s legal counsel is reviewing each comment and redacting any information the district cannot publish due to data privacy laws. Once the review is complete, the comments will be made available to the public upon request.
The board did read a written summary of the comments submitted by the public, which began by thanking all of those who provided their input.
“Despite what we are experiencing, one thing has been made very clear based on the input received - we all care deeply about our students,” board member Susan Mathison-Young said, reading from the statement. “It was easy to find common themes such as the need for safety in all forms, high quality education, kindness and resiliency. These common themes are what brings us together as a community.”
The summary also noted that while there were certainly differing opinions in the comments submitted, “the majority of respondents” supported teachers being given the opportunity to participate in the SEED Program, which Board Chair Kim Bolz-Andolshek reiterated for those in attendance is an optional program for staff members - not students - and does not affect or alter the curriculum taught in the district.
Board member Amy Sjoblad also said the district is required by law to provide diversity training options for its staff.
“The district was provided an opportunity, which was fully funded through a grant, to begin implementing the SEED professional development course instructing on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Sjoblad said. “This course is designed for teachers and was funded by an outside source, while the district provided stipends or graduate credits for any teacher who voluntarily chose to participate as it does for other professional development opportunities.”
The statement also noted several comments that “provided real examples” of in-school issues regarding inclusivity and respect for others.
District officials did not provide a date for when public comments would be made available.
A number of attendees expressed their displeasure with the board as they left the meeting, saying the board did not properly address the issues at hand during the meeting. Many remaining applauded the board at the conclusion of the meeting.
The video that drew criticism is one piece of a larger effort put together by Voice for Rural Resilience, with support from the Region Five Development Commission and the Department of Transformation. Lindholm has said the video’s intent was to highlight and celebrate the work being done in rural communities in their efforts to be more welcoming communities.
The SEED Program - which stands for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity - was at the crux of Lindholm’s video and has also drawn questions.
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.